DEERFIELD, ILL. – Currency market fluctuations and commodity hedging activities pushed Mondelez International, Inc.’s top line and bottom line down during the first quarter of fiscal 2019, ended March 31. The snack maker also continued to struggle to gain traction in developed markets but saw growth in emerging markets around the world.
Net income for the quarter ended March 31 fell to $914 million, equal to 63c per share on the common stock, from $1,046 million, or 70c per share, during the same period of the previous year.
Sales for the quarter fell to $6,538 million from $6,765 million the year prior.
During a conference call with financial analysts on April 30, management said on a constant currency basis that Mondelez International experienced a positive first quarter.
“It was a strong first quarter and start to the year as we built on the progress we saw on the later part of 2018,” said Luca Zaramella, executive vice-president and chief financial officer. “In quarter 1, we delivered strong organic net revenue growth, a solid increase in gross profit dollars, double-digit earnings increase and positive free cash flow.”
Organic net revenues rose 3.7% due to balanced volume/mix and pricing, according to the company and on a constant currency basis, adjusted operating income rose by $48 million. Mondelez’s margin during the quarter was flat.
“Our first quarter results demonstrate that we've got momentum as we head into this year of investment,” said Dirk Van de Put, chairman and chief executive officer. “Our categories are performing generally well. And our brands, both local and global, are benefiting from increased investment in advertising, creative and innovation.”
Emerging markets experienced 8.4% growth for Mondelez International while developed markets were flat at 0.8%.
Mr. Zaramella attributed the company’s organic revenue growth to “solid execution” in emerging markets.
“We delivered strong results across the board in India, China, Southeast Asia, Russia, Mexico and Africa,” he said. “In addition, Brazil returned to growth this past quarter.”
In developed markets, Europe delivered revenue growth of 2.7%
“This growth was volume driven and broad-based, with solid increases across chocolate, biscuits and candy,” Mr. Zaramella said.
North America grew 0.5% during the quarter. Mondelez’s U.S. biscuit business saw share gains in nearly all channels, according to the company, but the gains were offset by weakness in gum and the company’s Halls brand.
“We made improvements in service levels in the quarter,” Mr. Zaramella said. “That said, there is still work to be done to drive better consistency. We continue to expect progress in 2019, albeit not linear with overall modest growth for the year.”
The quarterly results prompted management to reaffirm its outlook for the rest of the fiscal year.
“We are maintaining our organic net revenue growth target of 2% to 3%,” Mr. Zaramella said. “We feel good about the quality of the top line results for Q1 and the growth across all the regions. Yet while we are encouraged by the strong results, it is still early in the year. We are also maintaining our view of adjusted earnings per share growth of 3% to 5%.
“Although we delivered double-digit growth in the first quarter, we did get some benefit from a few items that were below the operating line, including tax and interest that are not expected to contribute in the same way in subsequent quarters. We have also been clear that this is an important year of investments for brands, sales and innovation to drive more sustainable top line growth over the long term.”
During the call, Mr. Van de Put addressed rumors about Mondelez International acquiring the Campbell Soup Co.’s Arnott’s business.
“In the case of Arnott's, it's Australia, it's biscuit, it's quite a sizable business, it fits in that white space thinking,” he said. “It's obviously a process that's still ongoing. It's probably a little bit higher than what we originally thought when we thought about acquisitions. But at the same time, we have very clear expectations in terms of returns and in terms of leverage and we want to stay a very disciplined buyer. So, as long as it fits into the same framework that we set into our strategic plan, we will do so. But if it falls out of that, we will not make a deal.”